Every officer shows unique number at protests: govt - RTHK
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Every officer shows unique number at protests: govt

2019-12-11 HKT 18:16
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  • Security Secretary John Lee says police officers always display some kind of ID number on their uniforms. File photo: AFP
    Security Secretary John Lee says police officers always display some kind of ID number on their uniforms. File photo: AFP
Secretary for Security John Lee on Wednesday brushed aside concerns that any victims of police violence at protests could struggle to work out who the perpetrator was, by claiming there are ways to identify "every police officer" deployed.

The minister was responding to a question in Legco by health sector lawmaker Joseph Lee, who said that several dozen respondents to an online survey over the summer claimed they had suffered sexual violence, and that in some cases the abuser was a police officer.

The lawmaker noted that the respondents said they had not reported the alleged attacks to the police, citing fears that their complaints would not be handled seriously, that they could be charged themselves, that they did not know the identity of the attacker or that the perpetrator was a police officer.

Joseph Lee went on to ask the security chief how many reports of sexual violence linked to the protests have been made to the police since June, and whether it is acceptable for officers to wear masks and fail to display their identification numbers or show their warrant cards when dealing with demonstrations.

John Lee replied that there are no breakdown statistics to show how many reported sexual offences are related to public events.

He then dismissed the idea that there is any issue regarding police breaking regulations by concealing their identities, because this does not happen.

"At present, there are ways to identify every police officer regardless of the officer's post. In recent large-scale public order events, uniformed police officers on duty would display their unique identification numbers or identifiable operational call signs," the secretary said.

"When plainclothes police officers exercise police powers, they would identify themselves and produce warrant cards, or display identifiable operational call signs, as long as doing so would not be infeasible under operational circumstances," he added.

The security chief said these operational call signs are just as effective as unique identification numbers and strike a reasonable balance between ensuring members of the public can identify individual officers, and protecting the police from the malicious disclosure of their personal information.

One of the most common complaints regarding officers since the city's unrest began in June has been their failure to display their identification numbers, with the force at one point claiming there is no space on new riot uniforms to put them.